Congress poised to address interoperability

Computers connecting
Language in a bill under consideration would force technology vendors to make their systems talk to one another.

Interoperability in healthcare remains a huge problem—but the lame duck Congress could still address it before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, says Susan DeVore, CEO of Premier.

Language in a bill under consideration would force technology vendors to make their systems talk to one another, the healthcare improvement company head says in a Bloomberg interview.

post on Lexology from law firm Crowell & Moring, meanwhile, advises readers to keep an eye on the 21st Century Cures Act, which deals with electronic health record interoperability and product standards and certification. It "will prohibit practices that interfere with the sharing of health information for patient care, so-called “information blocking,” the post notes.

While the House passed that bill handily in July 2015, a reconciled bill with the Senate appears headed for final passage, according to the Lexology post, whose co-authors include Jodi Daniel, former director of the Office of Policy in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

“It could pass, probably will pass, in the lame-duck Congress and move us forward faster,” DeVore tells Bloomberg. “It’s like having an iPhone today that you can’t put any apps on because none of it can be connected. They need to be forced to connect.”

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The argument that’s often used against interoperability is that it threatens patient privacy. While it’s important to make sure patient information is protected, DeVore stresses the need to allow the patient to have connected health information.

“And if you really want to solve big healthcare problems—the problem of stroke, the problem of diabetes—you need population-based data. So you need to be able to connect the information at a population level,” she says.

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The 21st Century Cures Bill could become law before the holidays.

"If it does, it will be a noteworthy bipartisan accomplishment that could restore some faith in the ability of Congress to do healthcare legislation before the [Affordable Care Act] fight of 2017,” the Lexology post notes.